The Cancer Diaries: The Legacy

The support worker thanked me today for supporting Jennette through her cancer surgery. Indeed, I've had lots of loving bouquets from people who have heard my story about Jennette. Doctors have thanked me, nurses have thanked me.

It's like I'm a little superhero.

I find this unbelievable. I come from a family that has always taken care of its own. Growing up on the farm, I helped bathe my grandmother when I was just a girl after she had been broken her hip. At 15, it was bit of a shock seeing my granny in the all-together, noticing she was missing a breast at the age of 76. I didn't ask any questions.

I was raised to help others, to respect my elders, to revere them, and I loved every inch of my family. Maybe I'm strange because I grew up with my grandparents, but I loved them and would do anything for them.

I also grew up with an uncle who was, well, what was said back then was he wasn't quite right. He had the intellectual capacity of a 10-year-old; I was just told he "never grew up."

Vern was my buddy. He used to hook the dog up to my wagon or sled, and he would guide the dog around the farm, with me in tow. Vern died of a heart attack when I was about 12, in a farmer's field, helping the neighbor.

My life has been enriched by the people whom I cared for, who also cared for me. And I cannot imagine NOT helping them when the time was right. And that is what brings me here, to Jennette's apartment, to help in caring for her.

We live in a culture where it is easy to give money, a coin here, a cheque there, to help the disenfranchised, or the poor, the indigent or the addled. We hold fundraisers, big ones, that support hospitals and causes, where people come out in their Sunday best and drink and dance for this cause or another. There is nothing wrong with that; these fundraisers go a long way to helping people. And so do the fundraisers where we lace up our Nikes and set off on a path with a handful of pledges.

But sometimes, you just have to help one person through a bad patch. Sometimes, you just have to spot a person in need, or in need of help, and plunge in.

For all the wonderful programs out there, there is something missing. It's the profound impact that one person can make on the life of one other person.

Here's what I know.

There is always the senior in the building, the one you see every day on their walker. Offer to come to their place for tea, and you bring the sandwiches. Find out if they need a ride, or some groceries, or a little visit.

If you are a parent at school, watch for that family where the parents look stressed. Offer to babysit just for a few hours. Or offer to take their child to the movies.

These small acts of kindness are a gift from you to them. But they are also a gift to yourself.

Believe me, the rewards will come back to you in spades, like a boomerang, over and over.

I think about this when I receive nice notes from my Facebook friends.

Don't thank me for being a friend to my friend.

It is a gift that I get back every day.


  1. You certainly put some lovely thoughts into words. And amidst all of that you get the inspirational message across that it starts with helping one person. You sent a nice message to each and every one of us.

  2. You have always been the kind of friend everyone wishes to have, Rose. I treasure the fact that we have been friends for over 40 years now. It doesn't mean you're in my will, but you're in my heart forever, girl! ;-)


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